Monday, August 23, 2010

AA Simply Doesn't Get Those Cosmological Arguments

While working on part four of the refutation of AA's supposed refutation, he has posted supposedly what is a refutation of my refutation of his refutation. I don't have the time or desire to deal with everything he presents, but I will deal with a few ridiculous things he said.

One point he makes (that I didn't bring up in my post at all) is that David Bohm's deterministic model of quantum physics isn't widely held by physicists. So what? Most of the models of quantum physics are deterministic, and just because perhaps most physicists use the indeterministic model at the moment, it does nothing to prove that it is the correct model, and neither the argument from contingency nor the Kalam argument are damaged by the indeterministic model anyway. Both of those arguments work just fine on an indeterministic model of quantum physics; namely because the quantum world needs to exist for this activity to occur, and it didn't at one point.

AA then says,

As I’ve said before just because our “common experience” tells us something is true doesn’t make it so. Where is the evidence that this event has a cause? Brennon has once again utterly failed to do this and is that not also a basic principle of the scientific method? Base your theories on evidence? Something that Brennon is not doing. He’s simply saying there must be cause, but he’s just speculating and has given me no evidence why this might be so. So it’s not I who is disregarding the scientific method, but him

If AA were to remain consistent with this view, there would be no way he could function in life. First off, unless there is a great defeater (ie some evidence) for what is common experience, it is unjustified, irresponsible, and frankly stupid to deny it. Common experience tells us it isn't a good idea to fall out of an airplane. Just because I lack first-hand empirical data of this, I'm not going to deny it. He accosts me for not providing evidence for my position (which is silly, since the big bang model enjoys the most evidence of any model), but the irony here is really mind boggling, as there is no evidence that things can happen uncaused! Even on indeterministic quantum physics, the cause of the random elementary particles appearing and disappearing is the highly structured quantum vacuum, which is a sea of energy and is bound by physical laws. The quantum vacuum and the energy therein is the cause of these particles. The whole reason cosmologists are trying so hard to develop eternal models of the universe is to retain the intuition that all events do have causes!

He then cites more of retired (since 2000) cosmologist Victor Stenger. Stenger has been out of the loop for 10 years, and as Craig showed in his debate with him recently, hasn't really been keeping abreast of current cosmology. He cites Stenger,

Craig has retorted that quantum events are still “caused”, just caused in a nonpredetermined manner - what he calls “probabilistic causality.” In effect, Craig is thereby admitting that the “cause” in his first premise could be an accidental one, something spontaneous - something not predetermined. By allowing probabilistic cause, he destroys his own case for a predetermined creation.

If there was some quantum existence prior to the big bang singularity, Stenger might have a point. But Craig's whole point that the universe has come into being uncaused out of nothing, and this is supported by modern cosmology. The big bang model isn't the postulation that there was this dot in outer space that exploded at some point. Rather, it is a model of the universe suddenly coming into being, all time and matter and space, at a single point and then expanding rapidly beyond that. As Richard J. Gott has put it, "The universe began from a state of infinite density."1 Just think about infinite density and what that would entail. Density is how tightly packed together a group of objects are. In this case, all of the universe would be infinitely dense. If something is infinitely dense, then its measurements are 0. "Infinite density" is synonymous with "nothing."

PCW Davies comments,

If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme, we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime, through such an extremity. For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself.2

Cosmologists J. Richard Gott, James E. Gunn, David N. Schramm, and Beatrice M. Tinsley write of the beginning of the universe that, "Space and time were created in that event and so was all the matter in the universe."3 Craig also cites John Barrow and Frank Tipler (cosmologists) as saying, "At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo."4

The rest of Stenger's quote just misses the whole point. Events happening in a purely probabilistic context at the quantum level still have causes. They are not deterministic causes, but are causes nonetheless. There is a similar analogy to this in the human mind. Those who hold to an agent-causation view of libertarian free will say that there are undetermined causes of human thoughts and actions, namely the mind behind them. Indeterministic causes are no problem for either cosmological arguments.

I know AA wants to find some source that will undo Craig's premise here, but Stenger has failed to do so. His arguments really aren't that impressive. And, since none of his counterexamples to Craig's premises are supported by anything but a very hazy and theoretical segment of science, all they are are possible counterexamples. So AA's contention that he has "disproved Craig’s scientific arguments" is just hubris-laced rhetoric. None of these things are proven at all, and aren't counterexamples anyway.

He then goes on to say how science has disproved other things that seemed to be the case, such as geocentricism. First off, I don't think geocentricism would have ever been a common experience view, since common experience rarely deals with things at that level. Common experience for most people at that time would have had nothing to do with how the earth moves in space. However, there were pre-Gallilean scientists who did think that the sun moved around the earth. This was their model, which was shown to be faulty. Science is constantly morphing their theories and improving (hopefully) their models.

AA says, "And as I noted in my paper refuting Craig, even if everything did happen to have a cause, the universe included, it's an illogical leap to automatically assume god did it." I've already explained this several times, and it has gone ignored.

Amazingly, AA then says, "And science does not always follow logic, just as I explained with the example of the earth being in the center of the universe." This really just makes one want to facepalm. AA is conflating the rules logic with "consensus view" here, one which may not follow the other. The rules of logic must be followed if the scientific method is to be accurate. If the rules of logic are broken, then something is wrong with the model science developed. Both the geocentric and the heliocentric models of our solar system MUST follow these rules if they are to be valid scientific models. And they do! It's just that one explains the empirical data better than the other. Seriously, if one can't understand that, then they have no business attempting to refute anyone's arguments.

On the cosmological arguments not proving the Christian specific God, AA again asks, "How does any theist know that it was even their god that was the cause?" I'm not sure if there's some sort of mental block that is keeping AA from getting this or not, so I'm going to write this in really big bold text: COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS AREN'T INTENDED TO SHOW A SPECIFIC GOD, BUT ARE PART OF A COMPREHENSIVE CASE FOR GOD'S EXISTENCE!!!

What the cosmological arguments do show is that if all space, time, and matter were brought into being by something, this being couldn't be bound by the universe. The thing that causes all of space, time, and matter to come into being cannot itself be in space, time, or made of matter. Therefore, it must be an immaterial, timeless, extremely powerful, personal causal agent. Ockham's razor would shave off unnecessary duplicates, and, therefore, we are left with a description of the God of monotheism, which could be the Muslim, Jewish, Deistic, or Christian God.

On my question on why we shouldn't think that things can come into being uncaused out of nothing, he says, "I rejected the first premise because, again, it was asserted without evidence as I noted in my paper." What!? Are you kidding? We have no evidence that nothing comes into being uncaused out of nothing? How about every single thing that happens in life? How about we know for a fact that these computers we are using had a cause for their coming into being? The very text on the screen has a cause for its coming into being. He is also referencing his "rebuttal" to the principle of sufficient reason, which is silly, since this is not that. This premise is "everything that begins to exist has a cause" which is not equivalent to the PSR (though it is somewhat similar) and cannot be lumped in with it. The fact is, the burden of proof is on the person that says things can come from nothing, and there is nothing in the universe that resembles that claim. If AA wants to reference indeterministic quantum events again, then he has missed the point.

AA again ignores the philosophical arguments against actual infinites existing, which means that he has not even begun to refute the argument. I'm still waiting...

AA then gives a weak response to my refutations of some alternate models of the beginning of the universe. He leaves the Hartle-Hawking refutation untouched (I cited my source) and then says, "During the discussion with the scientists [Vilenkin and one other, I believe] I was privy to, they said how Craig’s description of the theorem was simplistic and Vilenkin outright said that the theorem doesn’t disprove an eternal universe." Thing is, Craig never says the BGV theorem disproves a past eternal universe. He says, as does the theorem, it disproves the past eternal universe which is on average expanding. Another straw man.

AA then brings up Anthony Aguire's model, which does avoid the BGV theorem. But, as Craig and Sinclair point out, Aguire's model temporally and causally disconnects previous universes from our own. "The other side of the de Sitter space [outside of our universe] is not our past. For the moments of that time are not earlier than t or any of the moments later than t in our universe. There is no connection or temporal relation whatsoever of our universe to that other reality."5 In other words, other universes have absolutely nothing to do with ours, on this model, and so wouldn't "connect" to make an infinite past universe.

I've dealt with this quote ("The very idea that the big bang was the beginning of the universe is a distortion of what the big bang is.") above in citing many different cosmologists who obviously disagree with how Victor Stenger apparently portrays the Big Bang model. Fact is, the Big Bang model shows the coming into being of all space and time and matter from nothing, and does answer most of the questions brought up. Modifications can and are being made to this standard model, but the general scenario the Big Bang model presents us with is an absolute beginning of the universe. With the philosophical arguments that show that an actually infinite past is incoherent, this is what we should expect to see.

He brings up Hawking's model which relies on imaginary time, but fails to recognize that Hawking's model does include a closed universe, just one with a beginning curve instead of a beginning point. As John Barrow points out, "This type of quantum universe has not always existed; it comes into being just as the classical cosmologies could, but does not start at a Big Bang where physical quantities are infinite."6 Barrow still says this is a creation out of nothing, but without a "definite point." Quatnum models imply the beginning of the universe as do the standard models.7

He then cites Vilenkin (who for some reason doesn't know how to spell Craig's name) as admitting that his theory presupposes a B-theory of time, which is unsubstantiated. The Kalam argument presupposes an A-theory of time. If the B-theory is correct (which there is little to no reason to accept) then we would fall back on the Argument from Contingency, as the eternally existing timeline would be a contingent feature of the universe.

Concluding his quote from Vilenkin, AA says, "Since it’s obvious neither I nor Brennon are experts in this field it’s essentially come down to an argument from authority and each one of us can argue until we’re blue in the face that what each individual says is accurate, but I suppose Craig will just have to duke it out with Vilenkin if he wants." Well that is something we agree on, and I would love to see Vilenkin and Craig discuss their thoughts on the issue. But this doesn't undo the philosophical arguments Craig provides also, which have not been addressed.

I address his entire next paragraph above. He accuses Craig of cherry picking, but obviously has not read Craig's comprehensive works (from Reasonable Faith and the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology) where he addresses Hawking's theory. He doesn't use support without saying why other theories fail.

Vilenkin then addresses how Craig and Sinclair handle Aguire's model (as I have cited above) and apparently doesn't get the point.

The point is we don't have an actually infinite past! With that model, you have multiple finite pasts in different, unconnected universes. AA then mentions that Vilenkin has a forthcoming book where he addresses some of Craig and Sicnlair's points. Well, since neither of us can get the book yet, it's a bit presumptuous to say that what they wrote has been refuted. AA then says, "It’s very good and makes a few of the same points I do coincidentally, such as the argument that philosophical logic can’t really tell us anything about the world." 1) How could he say that a book that hasn't been released is very good? 2) He says that logic can't tell us anything about the world? Well, then we can't know anything about the world, because philosophical logic is the basis of Science. We use the methods of induction (which are always logically fallacious) and deduction that we get from philosophical logic. I seriously doubt that Vilenkin said anything so ridiculous.

So, as we have seen, the models that propose to show an infinite past either actually have a finite past or lack sufficient evidence for them. They also fail to deal with the philosophical arguments that show an actually infinite past is an incoherent idea, and thus can't exist in reality! Just as philosophical logic shows that a married bachelor cannot exist, so too does it show that a past infinite is incoherent. I don't know why AA wants to deny that things that come into being have causes and then at the same time defend that the universe could be eternal. If things can pop into existence uncaused out of nothing, he doesn't need an eternal universe, and vice versa! He's simply being inconsistent.

Despite all his practiced rhetoric, AA hasn't refuted anything.


I took it upon myself to email Dr. Vilenkin to see if he actually said what AA says he said. I asked what he does with the philosophical arguments against actual infinites, to which he replied, "Multiverse explanation of fine-tuning does not rely on the existence of actual infinities. For the explanation to work, the universe does not have to be infinite; it just has to be very large -- and in inflationary cosmology it becomes arbitrarily large with time." Apparently there's some confusion here, since I was not asking about the fine-tuning argument, but about a past-infinite universe.

I then asked if he actually did say that, as AA put it, "philosophical logic can’t really tell us anything about the world." Dr. Vilenkin said, "No." (Apparently I mistakenly attributed this to Vilenkin when AA meant it to be attributed to Stenger, though I'm not sure Stenger would ever agree with that statement either, as it's ridiculously naive and simply incorrect).

Dr. Vilenkin also informed me that he has not read Craig and Sinclair's piece in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and has had only limited correspondence with Dr. Craig.

1 Quoted in William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008) 127 (footnote 60)

2 Quoted in Craig, 126

3 Quoted in Craig, 127 (footnote 60)

4 Quoted in Craig, 127

5 William Lane Craig and James D. Sinclair, "The Kalam Cosmological Argument," in William Lane Craig and JP Moreland, eds., Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2009) 157 (emphasis theirs)

6 Quoted in Craig, 135

7 Ibid.


Arizona Atheist said...

I then asked if he actually did say that, as AA put it, "philosophical logic can’t really tell us anything about the world." Dr. Vilenkin said, "No."

Dr. Vilenkin also informed me that he has not read Craig and Sinclair's piece in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and has had only limited correspondence with Dr. Craig.

I don’t have time now to respond in full but I wanted to comment on two things real quick. Brennon, you have completely misread what I said. I did not say that Vilenkin said anything about philosophy. I was talking about in Stenger’s new book. I also did not say that Vilenkin read Craig’s book, only the link to the article at his website you cited, which is what he responded to. I’ll see if there are anymore inaccuracies later.

bossmanham said...

Then you need to be careful where you place your citations, because it looked to me like you were attributing the forthcoming book and the position (which I also doubt Stenger takes) that philosophy is no good to Vilenkin.

bossmanham said...

Oh, I also never said that you said Vilenkin read all of Craig's and Sinclair's chapter. That was a personal inquiry of mine. If he's going to address these issues, he should be aware of the modern case against his own position.

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